There are a few reasons you might not be able to get your Think to shift out of Park like normal: The most common one is a completely dead 12V battery. Another is an intermittent brake light switch.
In both these cases you won’t be able to press the gear selector lever release thumb button. When the car is functioning normally, if the car is in Park the gear selector lever cannot be moved out of Park without pressing that button. And the button can’t be pressed without your foot on the brake. When you press the brake pedal, the brake light switch causes a few things to happen: The brake light turn on, and a solenoid (an electrically powered actuator) is energized to move a mechanism that un-blocks the button.
If all indications are that your 12V battery has plenty of juice, then your most likely issue is the intermittent brake light switch. You can do a little bit of diagnosis on your own here to verify that hypothesis: If it’s night or if you’re in a garage, you may be able to easily see whether your brake lights turn on when you step on the brake pedal. If it’s daytime you might either need an accomplice to press the brake pedal while you stand behind the car and watch or vice versa, or you can tape a bit of paper to hang down over the center-mount brake light so you’ll be able to see the light on the paper. If the brake light operation is consistent with the solenoid operation (i.e. if the brake lights don’t work at the same time the solenoid doesn’t work) then your problem is almost certainly the brake light switch. If the brake lights do work, but you still can’t get the gear selector lever out of Park, then you’ve got another problem that will take further diagnosis. If you decide that you need a new brake light switch you can order one from ThinkParts4U. The installation requires no tools; it’s just a simple friction fit into the bracket directly above the brake pedal.
So when you need to get your Think out of Park some part of that system is not working, you can manually override it by doing the solenoid’s job. Start by lifting up the boot around the gear selector lever. Gently pull up on the faux-leather on the back side of the lever, and simultaneously pry up on the back edge of the black plastic frame around the boot.
Now look for a bright yellow plastic piece just forward and to the right of the lever. It is very beneficial to have a flashlight (which luckily we probably all carry around with us all the time in our phones). When you press that yellow plastic piece forward, you are doing the job of the solenoid, and you’ll be able to press the release button on the gear selector lever. You might be able you get your hand down inside the center console area to press the lever, but you won’t have a line of sight if you try it that way. I recommend finding some sort of poking tool. A long screwdriver will work, as will a pen, or maybe even a straw from a fast-food beverage– it doesn’t take very much force at all.
Here’s a photo that shows more clearly where the yellow plastic piece is. Of course, you won’t be able to see it this clearly until after you’ve gotten the lever out of Park.
The basic tools you need for this job include Torx 20 and 25 bits along with a flexible extension or some other means of getting to some screws in awkward places. I also use a plastic body clip tool/wedge for prying some pieces apart. You could also use a screwdriver with a bit of electrical tape around the end to prevent scratching plastic parts. I would also strongly recommend a headlamp or a friend with a flashlight. You might also need to cut a zip-tie or two, so diagonal pliers work well for that, and it’s a good idea to have a few new zip-ties to replace the ones you cut.
The first step is to adjust both front seats as far back as they will go. (Not the angle of the seat back– the position of the whole assembly in its tracks.)
Some of you that may have had a battery replaced recently may notice that I’ve reduced the labor from 1.5 hours to 1 hour. That change just reflects that I’ve gained a lot of practice, and also accounts for the fact that I’m using a lift now rather than making house-calls and using only ramps for the service. So I apologize to anyone that recently had a battery replaced that paid for the greater labor hours.
Everything is subject to change (and other legal stuff you commonly hear…)
This is happening, people! (Or at least it’s being planned, people!)
I’m not really 100% done with this business plan and it’s begging for plenty of improvements, but the basics are there. I’ve decided that I have more to benefit by releasing it sooner, collecting feedback, and continuing to make improvements than by hiding it away until I feel that it’s perfect.
Some information may be pertinent to all Think owners– not just the ones who might need me to replace an MLEC here in Portland. But I’m not going to give away any spoilers– if you want to know what I’m talking about you’ll just have to wade through the whole thing (or let someone else in the group post it).
If you do read it, please send me an email note (email@example.com) with any constructive thoughts. Or if you can’t think of anything constructive, supportive is also welcome.
I was recently informed (Wednesday, October 5, 2016) that my arrangement with Green Drop Garage was not working out. Green Drop had agreed to host me as an independent contractor in their shop to work on Thinks, and they would have the benefit of labor and parts mark-ups. I did not want to be a full-time tenant, renting out a bay, because there’s not enough Think work to keep me employed full-time.
I was given 2 options: pay rent as a full time tenant at the shop or move someplace else.
Then for some strange reason they rescinded the invitation to for me to rent.
It was May of 2015 when I took these scope snapshots. If I’m remembering correctly, here’s what all the channels are probing:
Blue: The voltage at the blower, I think. I suspect that I turned the blower control to the second position which is why you see a little hump in the curve.
Red: The heater request signal, just like Carl described, going from 10% duty cycle (to request no heat) to 60% duty cycle to request heat.
Green: The run signal– probably from the key switch circuit.
Gold: An amp clamp around one of the high voltage wires to the PTC heater.
In this first image you can see that the car is running during the entire event. I happen to turn the blower on co-incidentally at the start of a heater-request pulse, and on the next pulse it has changed to 60% duty cycle. It’s about 1.5 seconds until the PTC heater actually starts drawing current, and because of its PTC nature, the element starts off cold– drawing a lot of current– and then warms up and draws less current.
In the snapshot below, I turn the key off while the heater is still running. You can interpret the green signal going to 0 V as the instant when the key is turned off. The voltage at the blower tapers down, and the heat-request signal goes away very shortly after key off. But the heater continues to draw current until the contactors open under load, and then the heater discharges the capacitor in the PCU.
The time from key off to the contactors opening is that awkward 1.5 seconds of silence when you wonder why you haven’t heard that familiar clicking that normally happens almost instantaneously when you turn the key off. There’s no way to tell how long the heater might go on drawing current if the contactors didn’t open. It definitely continues to try to draw current until after the contactors have had a chance to close again. It’s also hard to say if the CDCM was sending the heat-request signal at 1000x its present frequency if that would stop the heater from drawing current after key off. So is it a problem in the CDCM? Maybe. Is it a problem in the PTC heater control circuitry? Maybe– or at least you would think that you ought to be able to fix this problem by modifying the PTC heater.
Here’s the PTC retrofit instructions in case you’re interested:
Brake fluid. Water gets into brake fluid in just about every automobile because glycol ether is hygroscopic. Hygroscopic was a brand-new word to me when I attended automotive classes and its etymology is not clear, but it simply means that it absorbs water out of the atmosphere. (I would have expected a word like hydrophilic, but no. And glycol ether is not the only type of brake fluid, but it is by far the most common.)
A customer informed me a few days ago that a Think has a starring role in the Netflix original series Lilyhammer. Steve Van Zandt, of E-Street Band fame, stars as a mobster who moves to Norway for witness protection. He’s not thrilled with his new car, but even if it’s smaller than he’s accustomed to, he seems to make it look pretty roomy– and with enough space in the back for a sheep.
The screen shots above are stolen from Netflix– I hope they don’t mind.